Wednesday, December 09, 2015


A Most Fitting Tribute

Last Friday night, Steve Molaski’s hockey jersey was retired at the Constantine Arena on the campus of the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ontario. With a large group of family and friends in the stands, Molaski watched the ceremony from centre ice as the # 23 was revealed on the wall at the arena. It is the first time that a number has been retired at the school.

Long-time hockey fans in the area followed Molaski’s career from minor hockey through to his days at RMC. He played all of his minor hockey in Belleville, most of it at the highest level. That would include weekend trips up and down the 401 to face familiar foes in Kingston, Trenton, Cobourg, and the like. One of those rivals was Doug Gilmour.

Gilmour attended the pre-game ceremonies, and enjoyed the accolades received by Molaski. Following their minor hockey days, they played together on the Cornwall Royals, winning a Memorial Cup along the way. Gilmour had graduated from the Tier Two Belleville Bulls, while Molaski was a 13th round choice to play in Cornwall.

Gilmour was a strapping 145 pounds at the time, perhaps six inches shorter than Molaski. Steve tipped the scales at almost 200 pounds. You get the picture. Gilmour was a sniper, and Molaski had his back. There were many trips deep into the province of Quebec that provided the venue for fireworks. It was a time of political ferment in the province, and the Royals played the entire season in the Quebec League.

During the 1981-82 season, the Royals played in Sherbrooke. At one stoppage in play, Gerard Gallant wanted a piece of Gilmour. Molaski was on the ice to keep Gallant at bay, and stood toe to toe with the Sherbrooke forward. Molaski recalled: “He was a giant, most intimidating. Gilmour snuck up behind me, and speared Gallant through my legs. The benches emptied instantly.”

Following his hockey days at RMC, Molaski coached minor hockey, at a variety of levels. In his remarks, Molaski paid tribute to Gilmour. “Whenever Doug’s team was playing near where I was stationed, he would come out to our practices, or to our games. The kids were always thrilled to meet him”.

Molaski scored 205 points in his career at RMC, a record that stands to this day. For Steve, however, the hockey was just part of his life with the military. He is currently at National Defense Headquarters in Ottawa, having served in Bosnia, in Kosovo, and, on two separate occasions, in Afghanistan. He has risen to become a lieutenant colonel in the Canadian Armed Forces.

Steve was given the floor on a couple of separate occasions Friday night. Certain themes kept surfacing during his speeches. He realized early that in order to achieve results, he needed to show a little grit. He supplied plenty of that in everything he did. He also talked about the importance of “raising the bar”, never being satisfied with minimal accomplishments.

Steve appreciated the fact that family, friends, and hockey buddies were able to share the experience with him. “It was a fantastic and eventful evening for me.” He paid tribute to all of his coaches, his family, and his teammates. But when it came down to it, so much has been accomplished by the man himself. He fought through serious injury on several occasions, and persevered to gain success.

A fine brother-in-law, I might add.

James Hurst
December 8, 2015.

Wednesday, December 02, 2015


A Sparkling Effort!!

I struggled to come up with a theme for this week’s column. The Grey Cup game was great, as usual, but a little disappointing for Eastern Division fans. Toronto Blue Jays’ Josh Donaldson was named as the American League Most Valuable Player, and rightfully so. The Raptors are beginning to show signs of consistency. And yes, I did celebrate my 70th birthday last Sunday.

All of that pales in comparison to the event which took place on Tuesday night in Toronto. The Maple Leafs defeated the Edmonton Oilers 3-0, and the shutout was recorded by Garret Sparks in his first NHL game. For the record, that is a first for a Maple Leaf, ever. There have been some wonderful goaltenders between the pipes for the Leafs over the years, including: Turk Broda, Terry Sawchuk, Johnny Bower, Harry Lumley, Curtis Joseph, Don Simmons.

To say that Sparks was a bit shell-shocked after the game would be an understatement. In his post game interview, on the ice, he stated: “I can’t even describe it. Thank you, thank you.” With that, he spun around and headed for the dressing room. Naturally, he was the first star in the game.

Sparks is an Illinois boy who played his junior hockey for the Guelph Storm. He began there in 2010, and spent three years in a Storm uniform. He was the 190th pick overall by the Leafs, and the second last goaltender drafted. He played three games for the Baby Leafs, the Marlies in the 2012-2013 season. He has always been in the Leafs system, with the Marlies and the ECHL affiliate, the Orlando Solar Bears.

Coach Babcock made reference to the fact that Sparks is having a pretty good season with the Marlies this year. In eleven games, he has a sparkling 1.90 Goals Against Average, and two shutouts. In his shutout performance with the Leafs, he was grateful to his goal posts, which made things easier for him. Twice in the second period. As they say, a goalie’s best friend.

James Reimer has played well for the Leafs this season, but has been sidelined with a “lower body injury”. That is never good news for the fans. It can mean many things, including a nasty lower groin injury or a “sports hernia’. Many an athlete has had a career cut short with this type of injury. Hopefully for Reimer, it is not serious.

Bernier has had a really tough time of it for the Leafs this season. He has won only one game, lost eight. Confidence is a key for all athletes, particularly goaltenders. With Sparks’ performance, Bernier could certainly be feeling the heat. And not just from the red light!

We are at the quarter pole for the season. Babcock knows that he must get his troops to play better hockey for the remainder of the season, in order to make the playoffs.

At this point, a win is a win, even against the hapless Oilers, who are struggling without Connor McDavid. Once he returns, they will be a fine team.

Sparks is 22 years old, and knows the trials of the hockey world. While playing in the ECHL, he once endured a 30 day road trip, on the bus! Now, there is an incentive to play well!

Keep your stick on the ice!

James Hurst


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?